Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Appearance of Holiness

I've been nursing the baby and doing chores all afternoon, but I can't stop thinking about the Haiti piece from the post below -- I'll probably end up blogging about it on and off for the next few days.

One thing that really strikes me is Labash's description of Father Frechette's personal appearance. He wears dirty clothes. He wolfs down greasy airport food and rides around in dirty trucks. He smells really bad. He drinks, he smokes, he curses. If you encountered him and didn't realize what he did all day, you'd think "This man is an embarrassment to the priesthood."

Meanwhile, I, like many conservative Catholics, was taken in by Maciel and his Legionaries. I missed the whole "disciplined for abusing the confessional" episode-- I was too busy with the kids. And his order certainly looks good - nicely groomed young men who seem so serious about their work.

The appearance of holiness led us all to believe that they WERE holy, just like Father Frechette's appearance could lead us to believe he's an unserious slob of a priest.

BUT sometimes a fruit looks perfect because it's been sprayed with poison, and sometimes that mottled apple is delicious once you take a bite. When we "look at the fruits" it's easy to be deceived. Instead, we have to look deeper - at the theology underpinning the fruits.

The Legion's clean cut surface hides a problematic definition of 'Charity', a culture of abuse and lies, and a malformed theology that lets the leadership argue that "The Good outweighs the Bad." (Hint: That's EGYPTIAN theology, not Catholic Theology.)

Meanwhile, beneath the dirty clothes and smelly boots, Father Frechette is living the Corporal and Spiritual works of mercy. He's treating everyone, even the dead, as beloved children of God, and he's trying to be a sign of Christ's love in a cruel world. His humble appearance actually conceals the magnificent good he's doing.

Now, why do I have the sudden, overpowering urge to dig out my Graham Greene novels?

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